If you can’t see past the euro paintjob, don’t panic, a black anodized version of the Stereo is also available. The oversized down-tube has an integrated gusset at one end and a one-piece main pivot / bottom bracket assembly welded to the other. Because the laidback seat tube only kinks in the lower section above the bottom bracket it still offers a full range of saddle height adjustment. With the shock positioned where the seat tube normally goes, Cube uses an e-type front mech.
Moving rearward, snaked seat stays make for improved crank, not heel, clearance, and all pivots run on sealed cartridge bearings. Cable routing is neat and the frame comes with a dedicated mudguard to help shield the rear shock. It could also do with a neoprene seat-stay protector as we experienced a lot of chain slap on the underside of the low-slung seat stay.
To many, the Talas RLC fork fitted to the Stereo will be seen as an upgrade over standard Float 32s fitted to the other bikes. Yes it costs more, but the performance isn’t anything like as good as the fixed travel Floats. And the head angle on the Cube isn’t so slack as to warrant lowering the front, so the travel adjuster facility is pretty pointless. Also, the Fox RP23 rear shock has a ProPedal lever within arm’s reach to prop up the rear on climbs, so what do you need a travel adjustable fork for?
Cube has adapted a classic four-bar design so that the shock is actuated from both ends. A small 3-D link pushes down from the top while the swingarm pushes up from below.
We love the new integrated Formula shifter clamps that allow us to slide the brake levers well inboard for one-finger braking without pushing the shifters out of reach. Oro K24 brakes also have bite-point adjusters to further fine-tune lever feel.
Even with the 28-inch bar we couldn’t detect any reduction in stiffness with the 25.4-inch set-up. Unfortunately the handlebar has way too much back-sweep and experienced riders will want to ditch the conical headset spacer as it limits adjustment. But our biggest problem with the controls was really with the ultra-short grips.
On paper the Cube Stereo should have been one of the front-runners in this test. But you can’t judge a book by its cover and after a couple of rides the Cube fell short of our expectations. The Talas fork was noticeably the harshest on test and while we could have lived with a bit of arm-pump, it was its linear mid-stroke that felt out of kilter with rear suspension. As a result the bike pitches more and feels very unbalanced. Position-wise we felt perched on top of the Stereo and it instantly put us in mind of a Scott Genius. While climbing, the front end would lift easily and we ended up running the saddle fully forward on the rails to compensate. Ditching the conical spacer and dropping the stem would also improve this.
When you step back from the Cube Stereo and take a close look at spec, it’s a pretty amazing package: Fox Talas 32 RLC fork, Mavic wheels, XT/Sram X9/X0 running gear and Formula K24 brakes. Even if we didn’t like the profile of the handlebar, there is no denying that the Syntace kit is top quality.
But any bike worthy of the UTB crown has to be so much more than the sum of the parts. In the end it was the handling of the Cube Stereo that we felt was lacking. Changing the fork to one that better matches the rear suspension is an obvious fix. In fact, maybe the Pike-equipped Stereo The One at £1799 could be “the one”.
MBR RATING: 7/10